KUEHTAI IN TIROL, Austria, Dec 29 (Reuters) – - World and Olympic slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin finished the year on a high on Monday, claiming her first victory of the season in her favorite discipline. Since the American's win in the opening giant slalom in Soelden in October, she has struggled for form but a podium place in Sunday's giant slalom on the same course boosted her confidence.
Shiffrin outclassed her rivals a day later, leaving second-placed Czech Sarka Strachova 0.80 seconds adrift. Swiss Wendy Holdener was third.
"I really enjoyed skiing here even if the conditions were difficult," the 19-year-old told reporters. "Right now I'm trying to focus on enjoying myself and having fun.
"It's a belated Christmas present for me and my staff who worked very hard to take me back where I am now."
Shiffrin initially tried her luck at speed events this season before opting to concentrate on her favorite discipline and also deciding to change the skis she used to become Olympic champion in Sochi earlier this year.
Strachova last made it to the podium five years ago when she registered the last of her two World Cup victories in Aspen in November 2009.
A surprise slalom world champion in 2007, the 29-year-old Czech saw her career brought to a halt in 2012 when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor that turned out to be benign and was successfully removed.
(Reporting by Patrick Lang, editing by Tony Jimenez)